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Light Industry: George Kuchar’s The Devil’s Cleavage

Illustration of electrical coils

Oct. 12
7:30 p.m.
Light Industry
177 Livingston Street
Brooklyn, New York 11201

Hosted by: Light Industry

Restless nurses! Lovesick sheriffs! Sexed-up Girl Scout leaders! Lonely motel managers! And other degenerates populate George Kuchar‘s early ’70s mock-Hollywood soap opera, The Devil’s Cleavage.

Ainslie Pryor stars as Nurse Ginger, who is stuck married to a total slob, so she takes to cheating on her hubby with anybody she cans. Eventually, she leaves home and becomes the object of obsession of a seedy Oklahoma motel manager played by Kuchar compatriot Curt McDowell.

The Devil’s Cleavage is one of Kuchar’s rare feature-length outings. The film is credited by its distributor, Canyon Cinema, as having been completed in 1973. While the film may have had screenings in that year and in 1974, it gained a wider release in 1975, perhaps to capitalize on the success of Thundercrack! the semi-pornographic cult comedy directed by McDowell and written and starring Kuchar.

The film was screened at the Film Forum in NYC for a few weekends in late 1975. Vincent Canby reviewed it for the New York Times on Nov. 29 where he described it as “George Kuchar‘s metaphorstuffed, sometimes solemnly funny parody of terrible movies.” (The full review isn’t available for free online, but you can purchase a copy at the Times website.)

In 1976, the film had a one-night only screening at the Theater Vanguard in Los Angeles on June 15. (The Vanguard was an experimental performance theater that screened underground films on Tuesday nights.) The film was reviewed by Kevin Thomas in the L.A. Times on the day of screening. Thomas concluded: “Throughout, Kuchar displays a kind of genius at making fun of the overblown cliches and distended figures of speech in old Hollywood dialogue.” (Full review isn’t available for free online, either.)

To learn more about George Kuchar, please visit his index page on the Underground Film Journal.

Finally, I just love this angry still of star Ainslie Pryor as Nurse Ginger:

Ainslie Pryor as an angry nurse

Underground Film Feedback (2 comments)

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  • Alex says:

    I saw clips of this in the Kuchar documentary and it looks aaa (amazing and awesome). It’s also one of Guy Maddin’s favorite all-time films. For some inexplicable reason, it hasn’t been released on dvd. Someone please rectify this cinematic crime of omission! Thanks.

  • Kuchar Fantazmagoria says:

    saw cleavage at the film forum in mid 70s and it was mind blowing, just like all of Kuchar’s work but the next step forward, up, down and all around.

    knew Spiegleman back then, a complete asshole who frequently went into catatonic states and got carted off to the loonie bin by Ladybelle, his wife at the time, who was way hipper than he ever was. anyway, even Spiegleman knew what an honor it was to work with Kuchar.

    once, when Kuchar answered questions before a showing of his work, his intro to the film was so convoluted and went on for so long that he nearly got booed off the stage — well, not actually on stage, just standing in front of it.

    of course he pulled it off with utter finesse, tying up all the many and various loose ends, throwing in extra tidbits and cliffhangers, and charming everyone’s pants off, before ending with “roll it!”